Sunday, June 26, 2022

Something to Know - 26 June

In a week overfilled with news, there is an inability to cover it all without flooding one's level of tolerance.   So, today's article sticks to the work of the Select Committee's in its investigation.   We have seen 5 separate hearings so far, and there are more to go.   I was glued to my little TV when I was working the afternoon shift during Watergate, which ensured that I was able to watch all the live programming.   This time around, the format, the scripting, and the use of today's technology has enabled the presentation without all of the distractions from previous live hearings.   We see and hear all of the germane facts without bluster or fanfare as it rolls out before us.   Here is the story so far:

How the House Jan. 6 Panel Has Redefined the Congressional Hearing

No bloviating speeches or partisan rancor. Lots of video and a tight script. The story of Donald J. Trump's efforts to hold on to power is being unspooled in a way totally new to Capitol Hill.

The typical congressional hearing features a pileup of long-winded statements — what some might consider bloviating. There are harsh partisan exchanges that can obscure the substance at hand. Visual presentations tend to involve an easel. The television audience is largely on C-SPAN.
But the congressional hearing has been utterly, if perhaps temporarily, redefined over the past month by the House select committee investigating President Donald J. Trump's efforts to hold on to power.
The five sessions the panel has produced so far this month resemble a tightly scripted television series. Each episode has a defined story with a beginning, middle and end. Heroes and villains are clearly identified. Only a few of the committee members speak at any given hearing, and those who do often read from teleprompters.

The answers to the questions are known before they are asked. There is no grandstanding or partisan rancor.

Earlier this month, the committee postponed its third scheduled hearing for a reason far different from those that have typically troubled the tradition-bound elected officials and aides of Capitol Hill: Their writers and producers needed more time to sharpen their scripts and cut better video clips, people involved in the decision said.
When that hearing finally occurred on Thursday, the members — with the cable networks all carrying it live — wove together videos of depositions, audio from interviews and other material to document in detail how Mr. Trump tried to pressure the Justice Department into aiding his schemes.
"For the first time since Trump became president, there is a clarity of message and a clear story that is being told," said Michael Weisman, a longtime network and cable television producer and executive who oversaw live coverage of sporting, news and entertainment events. "In the past, it was muddy, they were talking over each other, there was playing to the camera and Democrats had a hard time getting their story out. This is different."
At the end of the day, the committee's success or failure will hinge primarily on the power of the extensive factual record it has marshaled about Mr. Trump's unrelenting efforts to reverse his election loss in 2020 and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. But it has also faced the challenge of presenting its evidence in a way that can break through to the public in a highly polarized environment in which Republicans often get their news from pro-Trump sources.

The committee has been aided by James Goldston, a former head of ABC News, who leads a small team that is sifting through the hours of depositions and vivid, sometimes disturbing footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to put together the presentations.

But the panel's ability to draw on all that material traces back to a decision its members and investigators made months ago to videotape depositions with witnesses, a move largely unheard-of on Capitol Hill.
Armed with thousands of hours of recorded depositions, the investigators and producers working for the committee have identified just the snippets they need for their storytelling. It is a tactic that keeps the narrative flowing but also has another big benefit: Having the option of using edited video means the committee does not have to call for live testimony from witnesses who could seize the opportunity to help Mr. Trump.
The committee has only been able to pull off its approach because the House Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, decided last year not to appoint members to the panel after Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked two of his choices. The result is that the only Republicans on the committee, Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice chairwoman, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are in sync with the Democrats in judging Mr. Trump to be a danger to democracy.
And while current and former congressional officials said that it was highly unlikely that another committee could pull off the approach, they said the panel had probably permanently changed things in at least one way: Taped depositions in investigations are likely to become the norm and be relied on heavily by Republicans if they retake control of the House or Senate in November.
"In some sense, this is the first congressional hearing of the 21st century," said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of the committee, who is set to lead a presentation at the panel's next hearing. "We have really made full use out of video, out of tweets and email, and interspersing technology with live statements by the witnesses and members."
The goal, Mr. Raskin said, has been to create riveting television, with constituents anticipating the next session as if it were a drama series.

"It's one thing to tell America there was an attempted coup and a violent insurrection," he said. "It's another to actually tell the inside story of how these things happened and what the human dimension was all about."

Allies of Mr. Trump have dismissed the proceedings as a showbiz stunt lacking any balance and ignoring testimony helpful to the former president.
The videos have rankled Mr. Trump, who has long prided himself on his instincts for good television.

"Those losers keep editing video," Mr. Trump has told associates.
Mr. Trump has closely watched the hearings, expressing surprise at the testimony against him from former administration officials and even his family members, associates said. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly told associates that episodes that former advisers have discussed on video simply "didn't happen."
A person familiar with the discussions at the time between Mr. Trump and Mr. McCarthy said that the former president supported walking away from the committee after the House leader's choices were blocked.
And some witnesses have claimed that the panel used their testimony out of context. One Trump adviser, Jason Miller, said the committee unfairly truncated parts of his interview. Mr. Miller has complained that the panel made "selective edits" in an effort "to turn MAGA teammates against each other" and Mr. Trump.

If they wanted to keep the quality of the production high, committee members determined, they only had the staff and bandwidth to put on two hearings a week, a conclusion that led them to delay the hearing on Mr. Trump's attempts to use the Justice Department to remain in power.

Each hearing has featured a behind-the-scenes element. The committee has played footage of high-profile members of Mr. Trump's administration, like former Attorney General William P. Barr, speaking candidly as if they were trading war stories. Mr. Barr, with his sport jacket open and flanked by his highly paid lawyers, cursed as he described to investigators how he told Mr. Trump his claims of election fraud were bogus.
The committee then played footage of Mr. Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump speaking on a Zoom-like conference call as she told investigators she respected Mr. Barr and believed him when he publicly pushed back on her father.
The hearings have also introduced new characters who were largely unknown to even the closest followers of the Trump story. Among them has been Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer in the final days of the administration. Sitting in what appeared like a fancy office with a black baseball bat with the word "Justice" in capital letters on the wall behind him, Mr. Herschmann has relayed expletive-laced anecdotes and rebukes of the lawyers Mr. Trump was using to try to overturn the election.

Making a case against Trump. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack appears to be laying out evidence  that could allow prosecutors to indict former President Donald J. Trump, though the path to a criminal trial is uncertain. Here are the main themes that have emerged so far:
An unsettling narrative. During the first hearing, the committee described in vivid detail what it characterized as an attempted coup orchestrated by the former president that culminated in the assault on the Capitol. At the heart of the gripping story were three main players: Mr. Trump, the Proud Boys and a Capitol Police officer.
Creating election lies. In its second hearing, the panel showed how Mr. Trump ignored aides and advisers as he declaredg victory prematurely and relentlessly pressed claims of fraud he was told were wrong. "He's become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff," William P. Barr, the former attorney general, said of Mr. Trump during a videotaped interview.
Pressuring Pence. Mr. Trump continued pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to go along with a plan to overturn his loss even after he was told it was illegal, according to testimony laid out by the panel during the third hearing. The committee showed how Mr. Trump's actions led his supporters to storm the Capitol, sending Mr. Pence fleeing for his life.
Fake elector plan. The committee used its fourth hearing to detail how Mr. Trump was personally involved in a scheme to put forward fake electors. The panel also presented fresh details on how the former president leaned on state officials to invalidate his defeat, opening them up to violent threats when they refused.
Strong arming the Justice Department. During the fifth hearing, the panel explored Mr. Trump's wide-ranging and relentless scheme to misuse the Justice Department to keep himself in power. The panel also presented evidence that at least half a dozen Republican members of Congress sought pre-emptive pardons.

After the committee was formed last July, the panel took months to build up its staff, hiring more than a dozen investigators — mostly former federal prosecutors. Their first interviews, such as those of top Justice Department officials, were done using only audio recordings.
As the investigation picked up momentum in the fall of last year, the committee made the critical decision to videotape every interview.
Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, spoke up at a meeting of the panel, insisting future interviews be recorded on video with an eye to using clips for public hearings. Among others who pushed for that approach was Timothy J. Heaphy, the committee's chief investigative counsel, who had never worked on Capitol Hill before.

To persuade witnesses to sit for taped interviews, investigators told them the footage would ensure accuracy and would most likely mean that they would not have to return to testify at a hearing. Over time, the panel got better with its use of video angles and quality; the interview with Mr. Barr, one of the last the committee conducted before public hearings began, showed him talking directly to the camera, and, by extension, the American people.

What resulted, committee officials and aides said, are congressional hearings unlike any that preceded them.
Rather than wasting viewers' time sitting through witness interviews lasting eight hours, the panel can boil down a person's testimony to a single incriminating sentence. There is no need to risk sparring with a combative pro-Trump witness when the panel can pluck key statements from a recording.
The hearings also featured graphics and extended montages that can take weeks to assemble. For a recent one digging into Mr. Trump's pressure campaign against his own vice president, staff members scrambled up until the morning of the hearing to pull together a detailed graphic demonstrating how close the mob came to Vice President Mike Pence.

The presentations have also called for discipline on the part of the committee members, most of whom are not heard from in any given hearing under an agreement among them to focus on laying out the evidence in the most compelling way they can.
Representative Pete Aguilar, Democrat of California, who led the presentation for the panel's hearing examining Mr. Trump's pressure campaign against Mr. Pence, said lawmakers studied past commissions before deciding to take a wholly different approach.

"We felt that the American public wasn't going to tune in to 10-hour Watergate hearings," Mr. Aguilar said. "We looked at Watergate; we looked at Iran-contra; we looked at the 9/11 Commission. We knew that we had to do something that was built for this century."

By relying on the footage of interviews, the committee has avoided having to confront witnesses who have publicly criticized its work. Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Mr. Pence, had said that he had little confidence in the panel's ability "to provide some sort of impartial analysis" and that by rejecting Mr. McCarthy's picks for the committee, "it went down more of a political show-trial path."
Mr. Short had been a crucial witness to Mr. Trump's attempts to pressure Mr. Pence. But instead of calling Mr. Short to testify publicly, the panel relied on video clips of Mr. Short's deposition — backed up by live testimony from Greg Jacob, Mr. Pence's chief counsel — to provide damning details about Mr. Trump's conduct.
Mr. Raskin said the work of the committee made him realize how much better Congress could do in carrying out its more normal duties.
"So it's melancholy to reflect on the differences between every other committee I serve on and this one," he said.
The Jan. 6 Hearings

Jan. 6 Panel Outlines Trump's Bid to Coerce Justice Dept. Officials
June 23, 2022

A Year Later, Some Republicans Second-Guess Boycotting the Jan. 6 Panel
June 22, 2022

Panel Ties Trump to Fake Elector Plan, Mapping His Attack on Democracy
June 21, 2022

Jan. 6: The Story So Far

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent covering national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment and the other for coverage of President Trump and his campaign's ties to Russia. @NYTMike
Luke Broadwater covers Congress. He was the lead reporter on a series of investigative articles at The Baltimore Sun that won a Pulitzer Prize and a George Polk Award in 2020. @lukebroadwater
Maggie Haberman is a White House correspondent. She joined The Times in 2015 as a campaign correspondent and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on President Trump's advisers and their connections to Russia. @maggieNYT

Understand the Ongoing Jan. 6 Investigations
As the House committee begins its public hearings about the events that led to the Capitol riot, a parallel investigation is underway within the Justice Department.

The House Investigation
The Committee: Who is on the House select committee? What is the panel trying to do? Here are some answers to your questions about the inquiry.
Key Figures: Over the course of nearly a year, the committee has scrutinized a long list of people and groups.
Hearings: House Democrats are seeking to use a landmark set of investigative hearings to refocus voters' attention back to Jan. 6, aiming to tie Republicans directly to an unprecedented plot to undermine democracy itself.
G.O.P. Regrets: The decision by Representative Kevin McCarthy not to appoint Republicans to the committee has left some pro-Trump Republicans regretting the decision to boycott the panel.

The Justice Department Investigation
People of Interest: The wide net being cast by prosecutors encompasses a sprawling cast of characters from inside and outside of government.
Jeffrey Clark: Federal investigators searched the home of the former Trump Justice Department official, who was central to an unsuccessful effort to strong-arm the nation's top prosecutors into supporting claims of election fraud.
Fake Electors: The Justice Department stepped up its criminal investigation of an effort to use fake electors to keep President Donald J. Trump in power, delivering subpoenas to at least four people connected to the plan.
Tensions Between Inquiries: Federal prosecutors and defense lawyers in the Proud Boys sedition case joined forces to request a delay in the trial, citing headaches caused by the House committee's hearing.

Jan. 6 and Its Aftermath
Breaching the Capitol: The Times analyzed court documents, texts and hundreds of videos to reveal how the Proud Boys instigated critical breaches of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Timeline: We pieced together the narrative of former President Donald J. Trump's monthslong campaign to subvert American democracy and cling to power.
Visual Investigation: A Times analysis of thousands of videos and police radio communications from Jan. 6 shows how Trump supporters took the Capitol.
The Day of the Attack: A rally turned into a rampage during a critical two-hour time period.

The Republican Party - willing agents and representatives of the Gun Manufacturing and Ammunition Industry - "the lobby".

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